Title: Terra Nullius
Author: Claire G. Coleman
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Adventure, Dystopia, Indigenous Australians, Science fiction
Dates read: 17th February – 1st March 2020
Publisher: Hachette Australia
5th sentence, 74th page: If only they would stay put – stay in the camp they had established for utterly mysterious reasons of their own – he would find it easy to beat a path around them and back to the road.
‘Jacky was running. There was no thought in his head, only an intense drive to run. There was no sense he was getting anywhere, no plan, no destination, no future. All he had was a sense of what was behind, what he was running from. Jacky was running.’
The Natives of the Colony are restless. The Settlers are eager to ahve a nation of peace, and to bring the savages into line. Families are torn apart, re-education is enforced. This rich land will provide for all.
This is not Australia as we know it. This is not the Australia of our history, This TERRA NULLIUS is something new, but all too familiar.
This is an incredible debut from a striking new Australian Aboriginal voice.
I figured this would be a pretty good and intense book – it’s apparently won quite a few awards. Plus, Coleman is an Indigenous Australian woman. So she was probably going to write about things and topics which I am constantly trying to find out more about being a white Australian woman and all… I DID NOT realise how intense this was going to be… or how unforgettable. And well, kind of life changing.
For the first half of this book, I didn’t really get how this was a science fiction story. It honestly just felt like a retelling of the horrors that Europeans enacted upon Indigenous Australians. There were the Natives and the Settlers and everything they did was exactly what the first settlers did to our First Nation Peoples. There was nothing really fantastical about that. Mostly, it just gave a face and a personality to some really horrendous acts. But then you get to the halfway point… and everything changes.
I love that the beginning of this story feels very human, very typical and very expected. But then you reach that turning point, when the quotes start to talk about alien life forms, future dates and interplanetary colonisation. Suddenly the horrors are inflicted upon all humans. Racism seems incredibly stupid when the entire human race is fighting for survival – our differences apparently just aren’t so bad.
This is a book that everyone should read. It has a potent message, and a great storyline. It is especially important for Australians – we need to acknowledge and accept our past, so that we can find a way to begin to heal the wrongs of the past. It isn’t the kind of book that you will read through insanely quickly. At least, it wasn’t for me. Rather, it is the sort of book that you will mull over and consider as you digest it. Giving yourself time to absorb and understand the intensity of what Coleman is trying to say.